Monday, October 3, 2016

Xenofera Preview


Quick Look:


Designer: Liz Gattra
Artist: Jeff Porter
Publisher: Self Published 
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 45-75 minutes
Find more info on
WARNING: This is a preview of Xenofera. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

You have been recruited by a member of the Royal Society of Xenofera Huntsmen to help them win the once a decade Galactic Hunt. Xenofera are alien creatures (animals) that are scattered throughout the galaxy. The Huntsmen are searching for the most appealing creatures as well as special collections that are more appealing as a group.

The Huntsmen are provided ships, but they must recruit their own crews, outfit their cargo bays with appropriate cages and finally capture creatures. It would be a lot easier if the other Huntsmen weren’t out to steal, sabotage and generally meddle with the various aspects of your team and collections.

The Huntsmen with the finest creatures and the finest collections of creatures will win the hunt and the game!

To set up Xenofera, Each person selects a single Huntsman from 2 random Huntsmen cards, selects a collection from two collections cards and takes 6 cards from the “Draw” deck to create a players hand. Also, five creatures are placed face up next to the Creature deck.

Set up for a two player game.

The last player to capture a creature goes first. Each turn starts with an Action phase where players can make two actions such as add crew members or any number of other action cards from their hand that potentially steal crew members, cages or creatures.

Next is a build phase where players use their Huntsman and/or Crew Members to build cages, alarms or locks in the cargo bay of their ship (again, only cards from the player’s hand).

Some of the Huntsmen in the deck. These Huntsmen each have one build point (upper left square) one capture point (upper right circle) and a special talent (listed below their name).  Other Huntsmen have various values, with better or worse special talents.

Some of the Collection cards in the deck. Collections can be creatures from a certain planet, creatures of a certain species, or creatures with certain diets or traits. If you capture a collection as described on the card you get the points shown in the yellow hex for each creature. If you fail, you lose the points in the green hex.

The third phase of a player’s turn is the Capture phase where players capture the Xenofera and put them into cages in their cargo bay that are big enough to hold them.

Some of the Creature Cards  in the deck. Creatures are defined by their Type, Diet, Planet and Traits. Creatures in your cargo bay at the end of the game earn the points shown in the yellow hex. The capture points required to capture the creature are shown in the upper right circle. The letter in the square on top is the minimum cage size required to hold the creature

The final phase is the discard and draw phase where players can renew and/or replenish their player’s hand back up to the 6 cards you start with. Players also have the option to replace this phase by drawing 2 collection cards and discarding one. Play then continues around the table with each player taking the Action, Build, Capture and Draw phases.

Cards from the Draw pile. These include cages, alarms, locks, crew members, action and reaction cards.  Each card lists the phase that they can be played.  The build cards show the build points required to place them

There are several cases where players are required to battle for their cargo. This happens when an alarm is set off or certain reaction cards are played. Each player has a set of battle cards (each set is identical). In a battle, each player plays two of their cards and whichever player's cards have the highest sum gets to keep the disputed cargo. The battle cards are then lost until they have exhausted all of their cards at which time they are replenished. This means you need to save your higher value battle cards for your most important battles.

Early stage of the game. The player has three crew members, three cages and two creatures in those cages.

Another player has two crew members, three cages and four creatures in those cages.  There is also an alarm on the cargo bay.

Final stages of the game.  Player has multiple collection cards, three crew members, 8 cages, 8 creatures and locks on two of the cages.

The end of the game is triggered when a certain number of filled cages occurs (based on the number of players), or the draw deck is exhausted. Points are tallied from the hexes and the player with the most points wins.


Rules and Setup:
The rules are solid and although we were left with some questions by using good judgement we were able to work through them. Xenofera was quick to pick up on after only a couple of rounds. The setup is pretty quick and easy allowing players to get right into the action.

Theme and Mechanics:
The mutant creatures theme is very cool. Some of the Xenofera are predictable, like the jackalope, and some set your mind to wandering, but the story and theme are neat. The theme is not essential to the mechanics.

The mechanics are simple enough. There are player cards which help you follow along. There are plenty of things going on, but never too many that you forget them. I like that the collections are easy to remember, so you can play the game without having to refer back to them.

Game Play:
The time frame is fairly accurate. One of the sources says that it is 15 minutes per player. My group was probably closer to 60 minutes for three players, but it did not feel like a long game

There was no age recommendation that I could find. I would say it is likely 10+ just from the various aspects occurring at any given time and the complexity in the phasing of turns.

Artwork and Components:
The art is the best part of this game. You spend more time stopping to look at the animals than you do playing the game. I loved the creativity in the creatures and in the characters. Jeff Porter gets an A+ for the imagery and Liz Gattra (and likely others) for their imagination.

Plaid Zebra - Check out the Xenofera Gallery at

What’s in the box?

The components (cards) are of good stock and are again wonderful to look at. The copy I received is a prototype and will likely not be the same as the final product.

The Good:
The art and creativity carried this game from average to good.

The Bad:
Would be afraid that after the art wears off the replay-ability might take a hit. We also found that our first game was very competitive, the next two were total blow outs. I don’t have enough data to say how often that happens, but when one player is already known to be the winner 15 minutes into a 60 minute game, it becomes hard to finish.

Final Thoughts:
The game is good. It is complex enough to keep you on your toes, but not so complex that you forget what’s going on. I like that it is small, can be whipped out and started quickly and still gives you some challenge.

Players Who Like:
I would call this a tableau style resource game. It’s a little more complicated (but similar) to Harbour (TMG) or San Juan with some stealing and plundering.

I am giving Xenofera 7 out of 10 super meeples.

7 10

Check out Xenofera on:


Launching on Kickstarter October 4, 2016!!!

About the Author:

Dave Merrell is a Professional Structural Engineer who specializes in Zip Lines and Challenge Courses. When he’s not swinging in the trees (or sharpening his pencil) he’s playing games, most often with some or all of his 5 kids. Dave lives in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.

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